The Emptiness of Fear

The Emptiness of Fear

This Sunday is Easter Sunday! But don’t rush into it. Take this time to prepare.

Remember that today (or at least the day this post is published) is Maundy Thursday!

And tomorrow is Good Friday

This time is important for preparation. Sometimes I worry that if we don’t prepare, we jump straight to the joy and the happy, we get caught up with the colored eggs and baskets, and we don’t really pay attention to what happened that Easter morning. But what happens when three women approach Jesus’ tomb at first light startles them, and they are “overcome with terror and dread.” They are quite literally frightened into silence.

Yet there is value in this perspective. There is value in confronting our perceptions of fear, because we may find that in the hope of the empty tomb that fear no longer has power over us.

Mark 16:1-18 (CEB)
1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. 3They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) 5Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. 6But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. 7Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” 8Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Consider these questions:

  1. When is a time that you’ve been overcome with fear? These can be physical or verbal confrontations, situational (i.e. fear about money trouble or about losing a job or relationship), and much more. How did you respond to the fear?
  2. When is a time you thought you would be afraid but you weren’t? What were the circumstances? What do you think kept you from being afraid?
  3. Is there a time that your faith (faith in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, a Higher Power, etc.) helped you to overcome fear? How did it help?

Post-Sermon Update on 4/3

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

As a Pastor and as a Preacher, I sometimes find it challenging to balance between preaching justice and ensuring that I remain balanced enough to be inclusive to persons of diverse ideations. In other words, I have to work hard to be a Pastor and a Preacher to all the people who enter into this faith community. This becomes compounded when the biggest Sunday of the year demands prophetic preaching.

(Note: I do not claim to have reached that lofty goal, but strive in every message to empty myself in such a way that God’s divine message is delivered.)

The Easter Sunday scriptures remind us that God calls and uses people regardless of how the culture of the time may value them. It is clear in the Gospels that the first people to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s resurrection were women! And yet the voices of women in the church have been continually silenced throughout our history.

Marginalized persons continue to be silenced today. Notably, the #metoo movement raises up the voices of women who have been harassed and abused; the #enoughisenough and #marchforourlives movements raise the voices of children who endure fear of violence in their schools; the #blacklivesmatter movement raises up the voices of black Americans who experience disproportionate violence and imprisonment. This is not done to make these voices louder or more important than other voices, but to amplify voices that have been silenced.

It is also important to note that these three instances are not the only voices that are systemically silenced. We still have much to learn about creating spaces where diverse voices can be heard and honored.

Consider these questions:

  1. The assertion that the women who discovered the empty tomb were the first female preachers could be considered controversial. What do you think?
  2. Over the centuries, the prominence of women’s voices has been diminished. The United Methodist Church did not offer full clergy rights for women until 1956 (see this link). Do you see a continuing silencing of women’s voices? What other voices are silenced?
  3. How do you help to lift up voices that are being silenced? What more can be done? Is it worth it?
  4. How does fear fit into the silencing of voices? Of lifting up silenced voices?
  5. How does the empty tomb help to address these fears?